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Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13, 1923

It's time for another Throwback Thursday posting, and this one is brought to you by what was initially thirteen letters...but is now nine.  I's a very confusing clue, isn't it?  Don't worry.  We'll sift through the stars to find out the answer in no time. 

Until then, let's have a gander at the other happenings that took place on July 13th.

100 B.C. - Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar (d. 44 B.C.) is born

1249 - Alexander III is crowned King of Scots

1793 - French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat is assassinated in his own bathtub by Charlotte Corday

1863 - Opponents of conscription riot in the streets of New York City; the riots last a total of three days

1878 - The Treaty of Berlin is signed

1928 - Actor Bob Crane (d. 1978) is born in Waterbury, Connecticut

1934 - Canadian journalist/writer Peter Gzowski (d. 2002) is born in Toronto, Ontario

1954 - Mexican painter Frida Kahlo dies at the age of 47

1962 - British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dismisses seven members of his own cabinet, marking an end of the National Liberals as a distinctive force within British government

1966 - Singer/actor Gerald Levert (d. 2006) is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1973 - Alexander Butterfield reveals the existence of the "Nixon Tapes" to the special Senate committee investigating the Watergate break-in

1974 - George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" hits the top of the Billboard Charts

1977 - A blackout causes most of New York City to lose power for over twenty-four hours, sparking riots and looting throughout the area

1985 - The Live-Aid concert is held, being broadcast all over the world

2006 - Actor/comedian Red Buttons dies at the age of 87

2010 - New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner dies at the age of 80

2013 - Actor/singer Cory Monteith is found dead of a drug overdose, aged 31

2016 - British Prime Minister David Cameron resigns, and is succeeded by Theresa May

And for celebrity birthdays today, we will wish the following famous people a happy birthday!  Johnny Gilbert, Aleksei Yeliseyev, Patrick Stewart, Robert Forster, Harrison Ford, Roger McGuinn, Cheech Marin, Didi Conn, Louise Mandrell, Mark Mendoza, Cameron Crowe, Tom Kenny, Rhonda Vincent, Paul Thorn, Ken Jeong, Justin Edwards, and Deborah Cox.

I will also state that had my grandmother lived, she would have been 92 years old today.  Happy birthday, Grandma...wherever you may be.

So, what date will we be going back in time to this week?

I think we'll go back in time 94 years ago today - to July 13, 1923.

Now, remember the clue that I gave you earlier.  About how it was something that initially had thirteen letters, but now currently has nine.  It's in relation to a very famous tourist attraction in the state of California.

A tourist attraction that was initially only meant to be temporary!

This means that right off the bat we can eliminate the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Capitol Records building, the Walk of Fame, and Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  Besides, none of those places started off with thirteen letters in its name.

No, today's subject is about a landmark that most people equate with the motion picture industry.  It's a place where aspiring actors and actresses look up to, dreaming that one day they will be discovered.  It's a place that is one of the most photographed landmarks in the United States.  It's a landmark that was initially erected in 1923 to promote a real estate development and was only expected to last a few months!

However, thanks to the rise of the film industry, the donations of several well known celebrities to keep the landmark going, and the general love for the landmark by the public, the famous HOLLYWOOD sign has been a part of Los Angeles ever since.

Of course, back on July 13, 1923, the sign didn't just say "Hollywood".  The sign was designed by real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults, who wanted to advertise a segregated housing development in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles.  The sign was originally built out of wood and sheet metal, with each letter measuring thirty feet in width, and fifty feet in height.  Four thousand light bulbs were placed on each of the letters of the sign so that in the night, the sign would glow as bright as a Christmas tree.  Searchlights were also installed below the sign to make it stand out even more.

Interestingly, the original sign contained four extra letters, making it read out "HOLLYWOODLAND".  And believe it or not, the sign was originally only supposed to last until January 1925, and was only ever intended to be temporary.  Of course, 1925 was a year in which the motion picture industry really started to boom and unbeknownst to the people who erected the sign, they had done so during the "Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema", so as a tribute to the film industry, the decision was made to keep the sign up permanently.

At least, the original version was SUPPOSED to be permanent.

Over the years, the wood/sheet metal combo proved to be no match for the conditions of the weather, as well as natural disasters such as minor earthquakes, and slowly the once pristine letters began to decay.  During the early 1940's, the caretaker of the Hollywoodland sign - Albert Kothe - had a little too much to drink while driving on the hills surrounding the sign in his 1928 Ford Model A.  He wasn't watching where he was going and he crashed right into the "H" in the Hollywoodland sign, completely destroying it and his car!

Fortunately, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce signed a contract with the City of Los Angeles Parks Department to rebuild the H in the sign.  But it did come at a cost.  Since the Parks Department declared that illumination of the sign would come at the cost of the Chamber of Commerce, the decision was made to remove all the light bulbs from the sign and just stick with the spotlights.  As well, the last four letters of the Hollywoodland sign were completely removed, leaving the iconic "HOLLYWOOD" on display.  By 1949, the H had been fully restored - but the letters still remained unprotected from the deterioration.

By 1977, the sign looked like this.

Hard to believe, huh?  Half of the first "O" was gone, and the third "O" completely disintegrated.  Not much of a tourist destination, huh?  Looking back on it, it's actually kind of an outrage that it got to that condition in the first place!

Apparently Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner agreed, and launched a public campaign to get the Chamber of Commerce to replace the dilapidated letters of the old Hollywood sign with more permanent structures that could withstand the elements and last longer.  The cost to replace the sign was $250,000, and the new letters were going to be 45 feet high and made completely of steel supported by a concrete foundation.  And each letter was paid for by one of nine donors, who each put up a total of $27,777.77 to restore the sign.

The nine donors were Terrence Donnelly (H), Giovanni Mazza (1st O), Les Kelley (1st L), Gene Autry (2nd L), Hugh Hefner (Y), Andy Williams (W), Warner Bros. Records (2nd O), Alice Cooper - in memory of Groucho Marx (3rd O), and Dennis Lidtke - in memory of Matthew Williams (D).

The new sign was dedicated on November 11, 1978 and was televised live on CBS.  And aside from a touch up of the sign that took place in 2005, the sign has remained in its spot ever since in all of its glory.

By the way, you might be interested to know what happened to the original letters from the 1923 sign.  Initially thought to have been completely destroyed when the sign was replaced in 1978, parts of the sign were discovered to be for sale on eBay by producer Dan Bliss.  The remains of the 1923 sign were bought by artist Bill Mack, who used parts of the sheet metal to create some pieces of art, as well as restoring the letter "H" from the sign - remember, the original H was destroyed in that car accident.  In August 2012, the Los Angeles City Council recognized Mack's efforts and awarded him a certificate of recognition for his efforts to restore a piece of Hollywood history.

A piece of Hollywood history that turns ninety-four years old today.  Just think about this for a second...Betty White is older than the Hollywood sign. 

Or, should I say, HollyWEED?  

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